Yellowlegs averages 100 km/h on 27-hour flight


Autumn shorebird migration is well underway, with waders currently pouring southwards from their Arctic breeding grounds across Europe, Asia and North America.

The family is known for its spectacular migratory abilities – such as Bar-tailed Godwits flying more than 12,000 km non-stop and Pectoral Sandpipers travelling 13,000 km in a single summer in pursuit of a mate – with GPS tagging projects almost exclusively to thank for uncovering these extraordinary feats.

Now, such a transmitter has revealed the spectacular non-stop migration of a Lesser Yellowlegs throughout North America.

The bird, which had been tagged in a project led by Audubon Americas and monitored by  SELVA, a Colombian NGO, left Manitoba, Canada, late in the evening of 19 July 2022. Its journey was tracked by MOTUS receivers as it moved south-east across the US, eventually reaching North Carolina in the early hours of 21st.

The 27-hour, 2,678-km journey of the Lesser Yellowlegs from Manitoba to North Carolina (SELVA).

The apparently non-stop flight measured 2,678 km and was completed in 27 hours, meaning that the yellowlegs travelled at an average speed of around 100 km/h during its journey.

SELVA described the yellowlegs's efforts as "more like a supersonic missile than a bird".

It is not the first time that epic Lesser Yellowlegs migrations have been documented by SELVA's project. In spring 2022, another individual apparently flew non-stop from central Colombia to Tennessee via Costa Rica – a journey of some 4,800 km.